Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the latest upcoming game from the developers of some of the most challenging gaming experiences out there, FromSoftware. Featuring swordplay, grappling, monster-hunting, stealth elements, and beautiful environments, Sekiro promises new experiences to both ‘Souls fans and newcomers alike. After having a go at the game, we’ve compiled the essential factors you should know in the lead-up to its release.
Sekiro transports players back to Japan in the 16th century when a young boy is trained by a mysterious figure known only as ‘The Owl’. After some time under the Owl’s tutelage, he begins his new role as ‘The Wolf’ and protects a young Lord of the land. That is until they’re attacked and the player is left for dead by a rival clan. His Lord is kidnapped, and The Wolf must fight his way through hordes of enemies, monsters, and villains to rescue him. Did we mention the part where the Samurai who kidnapped the young lord also cuts off The Wolf’s arm? Talk about insult to injury. Luckily for the disgraced hero, the game plays fast and loose with real-world history by blending in fantasy elements, as he’s given an inventive prosthetic arm that houses a variety of weapons and gear to aid him on his quest. As origin stories go; not bad.
It’s not all about the violence, of course; the journey will take players across a beautiful vision of Japan. Although the villages and towns are populated with enemy soldiers who are ready to strike you down at a moment’s notice. Luckily, with fields and tall grass surrounding the roads, there are plenty of places to duck out of sight and review tactics (or just run in like a madman, of course – your call).
The quest also pushes The Wolf through harsh mountains and other dangerous terrains… But what horrors await in the viscerally enthralling landscape? Players might want to keep their wits about them if they even want to get to their next challenge. Hey, at least you’ll die in a beautifully designed wilderness!
One Armed Wolf
Let’s talk weaponry. Sekiro gives you a variety of ways to dispatch those in your path. Make sure to lock onto an enemy before making yourself known, as it’ll keep you focused on them. The primary fixed weapon is the Katana, which players will use in normal combat. It’s easy to use but can quickly get troublesome enemies out of the way if you sneak up on them from behind, from up high, or even by grabbing the ledge from underneath them. A red circle will appear on an enemy if you’ve successfully approached them in stealth; hit attack to quickly kill them with a brutal few strokes of the Katana. It’s a bloodbath.
Be warned, if you leap off a building or a branch to initiate a ‘Plunging Deathblow’ on an enemy, you’ll need to tap attack in mid-air at the right time to get the strike right – otherwise, the element of surprise is lost. And let’s face it, with a name as incredible as ‘Plunging Deathblow’, you want to get that right. Speaking of timing, when being attacked make sure you parry their blows by tapping block at just the right time to deflect any swords or spears and protect your precious health bar. Instant kills like stealth attacks or the ‘Plunging Deathblow’ are genuinely integral to the gameplay, making it easier for players to progress through each scenario or battle. It allows you to get creative with your kills.
But what about that prosthetic arm? Wolf has more than a few tricks up his sleeve. Cycle through the weapons and tools in the arm before unleashing your chosen special move. You’ll need to pick up the White Spirit Emblems dropped by fallen enemies to be able to keep using your prosthetic heavy attacks. Our favourite was a combination of the Loaded Axe and the Flame Vent. The Loaded Axe not only looks formidable but can break through shields and generally hand out plenty of devastation in a battle. The Flame Vent unleashes a fiery wave that also sets one of your Katana blades alight at the same time.
Make sure you’re close to several enemies at once before using the Flame Vent for maximum damage before executing them with literal red hot rage. Another useful weapon the arm gives you access to is the Shuriken; they’re perfect for grinding down an enemy’s health from afar before leaping in to attack them. Immediately use a follow-up attack after any of the Prosthetic weapons to unleash a devastating chain of pain on your enemies. Alternatively, throw a Shuriken at an enemy while you’re tucked away hidden in a bush to lure them over for a stealth attack.
Another addition to the arm is the Grapple. This gives players a creative way of travelling around the story that also lets them take in the full extent of the incredible world in which Sekiro takes place. Move close enough to a building or an element like a tree branch you’d like to get to and wait for the grapple icon to become green. Using the grapple to hurtle through the air at great speed is a lot of fun – plus it’s perfect for a quick getaway in tricky situations. If you can strategically look for the next place you want to get to using the grapple, you could run and leap, then hit the grapple button in mid-air, just to feel even more untouchable.
Players looking for just another Dark Souls might be disappointed – the game doesn’t feature any role-playing elements or character customisation. In that respect, this is a singular character-driven narrative. But there’s a very specific focus on the sword combat here, and it’s an innovative addition that requires players to think realistically. You know, if you were a one-armed ninja with a prosthetic arm filled with gadgets, how would you attack a Samurai? OK, maybe not exactly realistic, but the posture bar mechanic adds further depth to the combat that rewards sword skills and reflexes. The posture bar fills up for both players and enemies as attacks are taken or parried. As the bar increases, the more vulnerable to attacks even the strongest sword fighter will be. If an enemy’s posture bar is completely full, players can execute them with a brutal finishing move.
If you thought that The Wolf would just be going up against different classes of soldiers the entire game, you’re sadly mistaken. FromSoftware has delivered some terrifying monsters and bosses that will test your capabilities to the max. And it’s likely that we’ve only glimpsed a mere few of the tough-as-nails bosses that The Wolf will face off against. The hulking General Tenzen Yamauchi is a swift and efficient warrior who has a tendency to knock The Wolf to the ground. Using evade to roll away from him before unleashing the Flame Vent is a sure fire way of getting his guard down before unleashing one of the finishing moves. The enemy also has Ogres chained up, and they’re brutal brawlers who will throw the player like a ragdoll. Keep using that Flame Vent, they’re stunned by the fire.
One of the most terrifying moments we encountered in our runthrough, came in those eerie mountains mentioned earlier. Be warned, there is a Giant Snake lurking around those snow-capped cliffs that WILL slither out across the cavernous gaps and try and eat you. No, it’s fine we definitely did not have a heart attack. Pro tip! When you’re in the mountains and you’re prompted to hug the wall, hug the wall. Thank us later. There are also a number of bosses, like the towering Corrupted Monk who sweeps players off their feet with her spear before relentlessly attacking them. Use your grapple to swiftly get out of the situation and reassess your strategies.
Potions, Skills, and Tactics
From all the footage and information about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, you might’ve guessed by now that this isn’t going to be an easy fight to the finish. Spoilers – you’re probably going to die, quite a lot. That’s why players are going to rely on their potions to keep them going during intense battles. The Health Gourd can be upgraded throughout the game to restore more health to The Wolf – talk to Emma at the dilapidated temple to upgrade it! If you do fall by the blade, fists, or even fangs – you might be able to use the resurrection technique. It gives players the option to be revived on the spot and although it can initially only be used once per checkpoint (A.K.A. the Sculptor’s Idols), kill more enemies and execute deathblows to recharge the ability. See? It’s not all bad.
Because of these intense fights with entire hordes of soldiers and monsters, it’s worth employing some stealthy tactics to survey your surroundings before leaping into a graceful (but brief) fight that sees you getting crushed by an Ogre. By using the grapple to fling yourself to a higher vantage point, you’ll be able to look around the map for any pesky enemies that will cause you trouble. That’s when your extra toys come into play – crouch to sneak up on a soldier that would raise an alarm to kill him quickly. Use those Shurikens in your prosthetic arm to take out the outlying enemies, then take on the big boss with ease. Parry their attacks and slowly wear them down using the Loaded Axe or the Flame Vent. You’ll soon be carrying out bloody vengeance with those deathblows and rescuing that kidnapped Lord (hopefully).
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will be available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC from March 22.